If lust is desire...

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If lust is desire...

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:46 am

If lust is desire and desire is cause for suffering, why are continence and celibacy generally overlooked in the English speaking Buddhist world?

In many Buddhist cultures laypeople will refrain from sex on specific days (the fasting days and on celebrations). The definition of sexual misconduct might even include having sex on these days. Dharma teachers will generally also teach the value of continence and curtailing lust.

Nevertheless, this seldom seems to enter into the discussion in the west. There are plenty of discussions on vegetarianism and the finer points of Buddhist philosophy, but neither continence nor celibacy are widely held as important and/or necessary. The Buddha is indeed on record stressing the need to overcome desire, one primary form of which is lust. Desire is one of the hindrances related to meditation.

Is it that a lot of western Buddhists approach Buddhism from a sexually liberal mindset where any suggestion of curtailing such things would be taken as a puritanical assault on their sexuality?
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:00 am

Yes.

Our culture thrives on excess, suggesting that maybe sanity should be applied to sexual tastes I think strikes many people as 'prude'. As much pleasure as I can have, all the time please. I want a 24/7 pleasure IV.

In addition, we are encouraged to directly attach our identities to our sexual appetites and persuasions as well, from a Dharma perspective this might not be the best thing, even if/when it might be needed or seen as good from a social progress standpoint. Of course it's not just sexual orientation or practices though, we are encouraged to make identities of everything in this culture.

More people do vegetarianism because it's easy, and middle class and above have access to a ridiculous level of diet choices, making it not particularly unpleasant. Vegetarianism is a "safe" thing to do in many ways, it's certainly a good thing to do - don't get me wrong, but I feel it gets used by some as some huge proof of commitment, when it is not necessarily that by itself. In fact i'm personally more impressed with restraint as regards sex, especially when it is someone with erm...lots of opportunity, rather than someone who is just celibate due to lack of it.

I've also see alot of Buddhists who don't take the fifth precept as seriously as i'd think either, it's not like we are exactly encouraged to have self control in our daily lives - like I said, pleasure IV please.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 05, 2012 7:59 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Our culture thrives on excess, suggesting that maybe sanity should be applied to sexual tastes I think strikes many people as 'prude'. As much pleasure as I can have, all the time please. I want a 24/7 pleasure IV.


This is indeed often the case, at least with my generation. I think if you speak about continence a lot of people will respond with mockery. Getting laid is glorified as a primary pursuit of life and plenty of commodities cater to such a desire. I think the primary reason dance clubs exist is to find a partner.

I've also noticed that a lot of young males feel ashamed of themselves if they're in their twenties and haven't been intimate with anyone yet. A lot of the pop culture mocks such individuals as losers, so there is a lot of social pressure alongside the physical urges.


Of course it's not just sexual orientation or practices though, we are encouraged to make identities of everything in this culture.


That's true, too. Sexuality encompasses identities many people strongly identify with. Strait, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc... many become emotionally invested in these identities and others use them for other motives both social and political. Historically you can see plenty of examples where, for example, homosexuality was generally a part of daily life but nobody had a specific label for it and it never turned into a social or political identity.


So, addressing lust and trying to overcome it becomes a matter of also detaching oneself from social and political identities. The latter might actually be more difficult than the former.



I've also see alot of Buddhists who don't take the fifth precept as seriously as i'd think either, it's not like we are exactly encouraged to have self control in our daily lives - like I said, pleasure IV please.


I think unless your alcohol causes you to go insane or is a huge source of craving, lust is far more dangerous, yet it is overlooked and seldom brought up as an issue in the western Buddhist world as far as I see. Liberation is often framed as a matter of philosophy and meditation rather than lifestyle changes. This again perhaps speaks about the social leanings and values of many Buddhists in the west. It is in stark contrast to what you see in much of Asia as I outlined above.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:14 am

Couldn't it just be that most people on Buddhist message boards are lay people and lay Buddhists are not expected to be celibate? Lay people take vows to avoid intoxicants and some sects of Buddhism are strict on vegetarianism. But pretty universally all Buddhist traditions don't tell lay people to stop having sex. No?
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:20 am

tomamundsen wrote:Couldn't it just be that most people on Buddhist message boards are lay people and lay Buddhists are not expected to be celibate? Lay people take vows to avoid intoxicants and some sects of Buddhism are strict on vegetarianism. But pretty universally all Buddhist traditions don't tell lay people to stop having sex. No?


Actually sexual misconduct is often defined in ways that include not having sex on certain days and even masturbation. That's not necessarily definitive, but nevertheless that's what many texts and teachers suggest. Some teachers stress the value of celibacy even for laypeople.

Continence of course is not celibacy.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:56 am

There is something quite blatant with all the television commercials for perfume as we approach that time of year again... they nearly all look like the opening 30 seconds of a porn movie.
As Johnny says, it seems to be just as much about defining the self as it does about triggering desire for another, the two seem to be intimately bound up (no pun intended!).
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:59 am

Huseng wrote:Is it that a lot of western Buddhists approach Buddhism from a sexually liberal mindset where any suggestion of curtailing such things would be taken as a puritanical assault on their sexuality?
I always hear a lot of whining, bargaining, and "Navayana" when I tell people Buddhism forbids masturbation, oral, and anal sex.

I understand their complaints. I instinctively feel the same way. Buddhism rules for sex are backwards, primitive, and unnecessary. That's my culture talking.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:09 am

Huseng wrote:Continence of course is not celibacy.

Yea, that's true. And you're right, I haven't really heard the topic discussed in Buddhist sanghas, be it online or in-person.

IMO, though, most of us have more afflictions to deal with than just lust. I remember Huifeng's prison analogy where it might be most logical to just try to get your handcuffs off before breaking out of prison - that is to say, work on anger, greed, etc. before going celibate.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:22 am

HH Dalai Lama on celibacy:

Dalai Lama Slams Sex in Post-Hoc Rationalization

By BlackSun / November 29th, 2008 / Celebrities, Newswire, Psychology, Religion / Comments


The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, on Friday said sex spelt fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life and "more freedom."

"Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication," the Dalai Lama told reporters in a Lagos hotel, speaking in English without a translator.

He said conjugal life caused "too much ups and downs.’

"Naturally as a human being … some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases," the Dalai Lama said.

He said the "consolation" in celibacy is that although "we miss something, but at the same time, compare whole life, it’s better, more independence, more freedom."
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Dec 05, 2012 9:51 am

:good: So much truth in his words.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby JKhedrup » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:09 am

Also, in the words of the great Patrul Rinpoche-

http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-mas ... hining-sun

(b) Letting Go of Discursive Thought
Even though we may be in an isolated place, not seeking possessions and such like to any great extent, if our mind falls under the power of desire, a genuine state of meditative concentration will not arise in our being, and our mind will be unable to rest in a state of absorption. Therefore thoughts of desire must be given up. To turn our thoughts away from attachment to desirable things is particularly important for gaining the special higher levels of concentration, so we should certainly turn the mind away from craving after members of the opposite sex by reflecting on the cause, the fact that they are not easy to obtain; their nature, which is impure; and the result, which involves a lot of harm, and so on.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Simon E. » Wed Dec 05, 2012 10:28 am

It may be because I am of an earlier generation than most posters, or because I am English.. :smile:
But the necessity for sexual continence was impressed on me and my fellow Buddhist seekers from the start,,and that was in the context of " Swinging London "..

When I first encountered online Buddhist Forums I was amazed at two changes in particular occurring within western Buddhism.
The first was that a vegetarian diet was widely seen as proof of commitment..my generation saw it strictly as a matter of individual conscience..and many of us became vegetarian.... but quietly.
The second was the uncritical acceptance of all and any sexual activity as long as there was " respect ".
Self respect resulting from a balanced and non puritanical continence was not discussed.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Ayu » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:23 pm

In German discussion-forums sexuality in the view of buddhism is a very hot discussed topic - if it arises. But it feels uncomfortable to join. The topic easyly becomes too personal. Maybe some people feel the same like I - it is not so often discussed like "being vegetarian", "Rebirth" or "buddhist emptyness".

In our western history the celibacy has been used by the christian church to make the people feel guilty. Normal people with a normal sexuality have been told to be weak and dirty. Thus they could become dependend, the poor sinners.
This gives us a bitter taste if somebody says "You have to restict your sexual feelings." Sigmund Freud would jump around in his grave: "This is supression of the natural emotions!" :tongue:
This makes it difficult to say it like the Dalai Lama told... Many freethinkers will be bothered by his words.
Even if he's right. :smile:
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From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:09 pm

Ayu wrote:In German discussion-forums sexuality in the view of buddhism is a very hot discussed topic - if it arises. But it feels uncomfortable to join. The topic easyly becomes too personal. Maybe some people feel the same like I - it is not so often discussed like "being vegetarian", "Rebirth" or "buddhist emptyness".

In our western history the celibacy has been used by the christian church to make the people feel guilty. Normal people with a normal sexuality have been told to be weak and dirty. Thus they could become dependend, the poor sinners.
This gives us a bitter taste if somebody says "You have to restict your sexual feelings." Sigmund Freud would jump around in his grave: "This is supression of the natural emotions!" :tongue:
This makes it difficult to say it like the Dalai Lama told... Many freethinkers will be bothered by his words.
Even if he's right. :smile:


I suspect Freud would be very happy at the idea of rechanneling pyscho-sexual energy towards liberation rather than towards a substitute parental figure, apart from the fact he would get no work as an analyst.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Karma Chochi Jinpa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:39 pm

I think that is the difference in listening to the Dharma from a "dharma teacher" and from a Lama. The pedigree matters. Sexuality is discussed in my Sangha. If you are reading from text and discussing texts it comes up. It has to. I feel like if some teachers avoid topics they struggle with. How can I take advice seriously in that situation? I know that Buddha taught us to look at the teaching and not the teacher but if the teacher is interpreting things in a way that keep him from being challenged then how can we not look at that teacher. There is the saying that your guru should live 7 mountain ranges away. I agree. Mine actually lives in the same town ha ha but I think that is also a figurative statement too. Your teacher needs to be someone that is beyond the problems you currently have.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:10 pm

Simon E. wrote:It may be because I am of an earlier generation than most posters, or because I am English.. :smile:


My generation (born in the 80s) is preoccupied with sex and their identities and self-worth often revolve around it.

This is why the idea of curtailing lust is so difficult to even consider (I initially had similar issues as well). The problem really lay in that socially such ideas would be discouraged as unmanly, unnatural and overtly puritanical. People often think that "suppressing your sex drive" as they call it leads to mental disorders. This is considered common sense.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:28 pm

Because this is about sex, I won't belabor the point except to say, from a Buddhist perspective I agree with the teaching i've heard that in fact the fifth precept can be viewed as among the most important, because indulging in intoxicants can lead to breaking all the other precepts.

Just look at the social effects of alcohol in particular and you can see that this is directly true, pick any of the other four precepts and you will often intoxicants directly involved in their breaking. I've had my issues here myself...so I guess I have strong feelings on it.

Anyway on the sex thing, personally to me the issue of not tying one's identity up with it/attaching to it is the main thing, which naturally leads to at least a healthy sex life, rather than an over indulgent one, you control your sexual desire rather than it burning you up. I'm not celibate of course..well, i'm married if that counts lol.

Also I believe that as the some schools of thought say sexual desire is a kind of intrinsic energy, i've been able to re channel it into all kinds of healthy activities, including meditation..so I don't 'repress' my desire, I just don't assume I need to satisfy it all the time, nor that I necessarily need sex specifically to feel satisfied. I think that it's treated just like hunger in our society..hunger is a normal thing, it's normal, and in some sense 'correct' to feel hungry a certain amount of the time, but our culture encourages us to sate our desires the second we have them.

I think Ayu brings up a really good point too...I don't want to sound like I ally at all with the guilt - ridden, neurotic view of sex taken by much modern Christianity..perhaps that also is part of the reason it's had to discuss in western Buddhist circles.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby PorkChop » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:20 pm

I can definitely agree with comments about pressures from modern western society.
If you don't feel like boning everything in sight, "then you probably have problems with your hormone levels."
If you paid much attention to modern media, you would be convinced that adult men should be horn balls, who love "approved" sports, and have absolutely no interest in intellectual pursuits.

On the other hand, I'm not sure going all fire and brimstone is the answer either.
Being led by cravings, obsessions, and desires is no way to live - any rational adult can see that and even more-so Buddhists, who do their best to abide by precepts & follow the path.
As soon as you start telling people they can't have sex, they're going to think about sex.
Tell me not to indulge in chocolate, I'm going to think about chocolate.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; so when you apply pressure, pressure in the opposite direction is going to rise up.

Ultimately, people are going to have to make their own decisions.
The reason desires are unskillful in the first place is because they can destroy the equanimity of yourself & others (well that, and the fact that "satiation" is only temporary); so too can stamping out those desires become something that upsets one's equanimity.
I'd rather focus on a pursuit for equanimity than become obsessed with stamping out the obsessions I'm trying to escape in the first place.
My personal preference is taking a "take it or leave it" attitude with everything.
If it's sexy time cool, if not, no biggie. If we're having pizza for dinner - cool, but if not then don't waste any time craving for it.
Wasting time feeling guilty about something can be just as big a trap.
Funny enough "date night" with my wife has almost become a hassle - she never wants to pick, and I don't have strong food cravings like I used to.

As far as the calendar goes and full/half moon activities; I wasn't raised with that calendar and I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to implement it.
I don't know that it will ever become second nature to follow it.
I was raised to see Saturday as an activity day, Sunday as a day of reflection, and every other day as an opportunity to practice.
That's why I picked Sundays not to eat meat; in fact I do my best on Sundays to observe as many of the precepts/perfections as I can.
Saturday usually ends up being some Dharma-related activity, such as Dharma class (in person or online) and/or charity/goodwill events.

If I put too much stress on trying to be perfect, it's just more stress that I have to worry about.
Better to do my best and just keep at it.
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Indrajala » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:19 am

PorkChop wrote:
On the other hand,I'm not sure going all fire and brimstone is the answer either.



I don't think all but a small minority of Buddhist teachers would suggest fire and brimstone in matters related to sexuality.

Really what it comes down to is that the Buddha taught that desire is cause for suffering and must be eliminated. On a subtle level it hinders meditation. Entry into the first dhyāna includes "abandoning desire". By not overcoming kāma one is bound to the kāma-dhātu.

This might not be relevant to most people who neither meditate nor actively seek liberation from saṃsāra. I don't think it wise to take a yogic principle and turn it into an ethical rule for people who do not engage in meditation. This is why the lay precept just concerns harmful sexual acts (for example incest and adultery).
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Re: If lust is desire...

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Thu Dec 06, 2012 2:53 am

The lust = desire = suffering equation has always been intuitively obvious to me, even before my exposure to Buddhist outlooks. The choice of "manifesting" one's sexuality has only ever seemed sensible and desirable to me within the context of a selflessness-cultivating and loving relationship. Anything short of that is far to akin to treating another person as a sex toy, in terms of my sense of ethics, and besides which it would just feel like an empty physiological reaction. Like Kool-Aid without sugar. Thankfully, I've never let social-cultural pressures get the better of me. People may do as they wish, but it bothers me that others with innately more healthy attitudes are probably getting sucked into the great and powerful hyper-sexual mindset. There's no real respect for diversity when it comes to "prudes" like myself.
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